Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Over Duck Boat Crash - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Over Duck Boat Crash

Families of two Hungarian tourists killed in the sinking of a Ride the Ducks boat file suit



    Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Over Duck Boat Crash
    An amphibious craft is salvaged from the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Friday, July 9, 2010. An amphibious sightseeing boat that stalled in the Delaware River was knocked over by an oncoming barge Wednesday, spilling 37 people overboard and leaving two passengers unaccounted for after a frantic rescue effort.

    The families of two Hungarian tourists killed when a duck boat collided with a barge on the Delaware River have filed lawsuits against the companies involved.

    Szabolcs Prem, 20, and 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner drowned when the Ride the Ducks tour boat they were on sank to the bottom of the river on July 7.

    Duck Boat #34 rolled over and capsized after the tugboat Caribbean Sea pushed a 250-foot barge named The Resource into the anchored tourist boat. The duck boat was stalled in the river after experiencing mechanical problems.

    Thirty-seven people were thrown into the river, but only 35 were rescued. Prem and Schwendtner's bodies were recovered two days later.

    Attorneys for both families filed a wrongful death suit Tuesday against Ride the Ducks and K-Sea Transportation -- the operator of the tugboat.

    Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi says the deaths could've been prevented if Ride the Ducks had followed safety upgrades recommended by the NTSB after an unrelated duck boat sinking in 1999.

    In that accident, 13 people drowned when the duck boat they were riding on sank on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. The boat was operated by another company, but was a similar style.

    The NTSB found that the canopy of that duck boat prevented some of the its passengers from escaping. The report also stated that the boat was unable to stay afloat after becoming flooded.

    Federal officials recommended duck boat operators alter the design of the amphibious vehicles to make them safer, but such changes were not mandated.

    "Two more children have died and the industry still says we're not going to make the changes," Mongeluzzi said. "The only thing that is going to promote that change is going to be a Philadelphia jury telling them this is wrong, this is reckless and we will punish you if you don't make these changes."

    Family attorneys have also called for the City of Philadelphia to ban duck boats from operating on the busy Delaware River.

    Following the lawsuit filing, Ride the Ducks issued a statement, which said in part:

    "It's pure speculation that a different canopy could have prevented the July 7th tragedy."

    The NTSB is continuing its investigation into the sinking.